Custom Made Leather Backpack With
Padded Laptop Computer Section
with drawings and photos of how
this backpack was made
This backpack is made with a
compartment for a
laptop computer, a larger file section, an open outside pocket, a
zipper outside pocket, and 2 pouches with flap closures.
This is made using a pebble grain dark brown leather and Khaki
color bonded lining material. It has top carry straps, removable
shoulder strap and removable backpack strap.
First I made a preliminary sketch
features that the customer wanted. It was modified several times at the
customers request. Compartment #1 is for the laptop computer. Pouches
on the back are
for cell phone and eyeglasses. Section #2 is for files. I make the
sketch this way so that the customer can fill in the dimensions that
they want and so they can be changed without having to redo the
drawing. One has to keep in mind that this drawing is not necessarily
On the first revision the pouches were moved to the ends
on back for quick access to an ID card needed for work.
As you can see, more features were added as the
design developed. Using this final drawing I didn't need to make
elaborate patterns for this bag, only one that was the outside overall
size. I just made notes with the dimensions for other parts that
included the seam allowances.
The biggest design problem for me to overcome was that
compartment #1 and #2 are separated on the inside but I need a
flat panel on the outside to attach the end pouches to.
See the top
drawing where the center seam goes all the way around the bag. In this
drawing that seam has to stop at the strap attachment. The way I got
around this was to make the lining like drawing #1 and the outside sewn
to it at the seam just above the strap Dee ring. There is one problem
with this that I will point out in a later picture.
Sometimes it's hard to know where to start.
What I do is break a
big job down into smaller components so that it becomes manageable. I'm
going to make the outside front and back first.
The side I'm working on first is the front that has a zipper
pocket 1" wide at the top that tapers down to nothing at the
bottom. I use the one pattern I made to cut out a couple pieces of
lining for the front and back. I then use the top part of the same
pattern to cut out a top leather facing. Next I cut some black leather
for the top handle straps, fold it and top stitch it. I sewed it on
through the top facing and lining so that when using the top handles I
would be lifting on the lining. If I was using a cheap cloth lining
like that used on imports this wouldn't last long in use but my lining
material is as strong as the leather.
Notice that I have folded under the bottom edge of the
facing. The handle ends are just a raw edge but I am going to cover
them with zipper tape so they won't show. The folded edge of the
leather will get sewn to the lining when I sew on the zipper.
Ok, I have sewn on the zipper. Notice how it is folded and
small facing on the right hand side. I will trim the outside edge of
the facing later.
Using my same pattern I now cut the leather for the bottom
front. I want this piece wider to allow for the gusset so I mark one
side of the pattern, slide it over 2" and mark the other side.
This shows the top part of the bottom front from the back
I've sewn on the other side of the zipper to match what I have on the
folded back the extra that I added for the gussets and top stitched it
part way down. I buy this nylon coil zipper on a roll and cut lengths
Next I assemble the 2 parts by putting on the zipper slider.
It's necessary to move it a few teeth one way or the other till the
corners line up properly. Then the ends of the zipper are heat sealed
together. I can then sew the gusset edges and bottom to
the lining. We will see that assembled in a later photo.
Now the other side...
This starts off the same as the other side except that this
I fold over the handle ends and sew them into the seam. I didn't
do that on the zipper side because I didn't want the extra thickness in
the seam. This side has an open pocket that closes with a magnetic
snap. I put 1/2 of the snap on the bottom center of the facing and
above that I add the 2 dee rings for the backpack straps.
The bottom part of this side is easy. I cut it with my same one
pattern, minus a couple inches at the top. The top edge gets the other
half of the magnetic snap applied to a leather tab that is then sewn
onto the center top. The top edge of the pocket then gets folded down
to the inside and sewn. A dee ring is put on the bottom corners
to complete the backpack attachment.
Here it is with the edges and bottom attached to the lining
seam tape. I cut two more pieces of lining and on the one for the front
I sew on credit card pockets a pen holder and 2 clips for key rings.
The lining for this side gets padding sewn to it to protect the laptop
computer that goes in this compartment. Here it is assembled.
Now it's time to make the dreaded middle part. This is where
hope I have it figured out. Time to use the one pattern again to cut
out 2 more pieces of lining. On the top of one I insert a long zipper
1" down from the top, and running almost the entire length. Putting the
two pieces back to back and sewing on the #2 compartment top zipper and
leather facings I have this.
I have notched the top center of the facings and use this
align it to the top center of the lining. I will do this when sewing on
the front and back also. Next step is to sew the facings and zipper for
compartment #1 to the other side.
Here is the center with the bottom lining attached to the
divider. There is a seam going all the way around the center as shown
in drawing one at the top of the page. What you see in this view is
compartment #1 for the laptop computer with the long zipper
installed in the center divider. This makes a compartment between
section #1 and section #2 where padding can be added if needed. You
will also see the three tunnels in which I will install padding
for the bottom and sides of the laptop after final assembly. What we
need to do now is cut the leather for the outside bottom. It will be
the full width of the two compartments. The outside pouches are
positioned on it and sewn on the way we did it on the handbag we made
from a photo. It is then attached to the bottom lining with seam tape
and the top edges are folded and sewn over the bottom edges of the top
zippers. Before looking at that, look at the photo above to see that I
have installed black binding on the center seam between the two zippers.
Notice that I can't sew across the binding on the
seam because of the compartment divider. Above the pouches I have added
solid brass dee rings for the shoulder strap attachment. This completes
the center section and it's time to sew on the front and back. The
binding on that flap looks great doesn't it. The flaps are douple thick
leather so that the magnetic snap on the under side doesn't show. This
pebble grain chocolate leather looks really nice.
Here's the back installed
Here's the front installed showing the tapered zipper
gussets. After binding the two seams all I have to do is make the
shoulder strap and backpack straps. You would be surprised at the
amount of leather goes into the straps. You have to cut them 3/4" wider
than double the finished width if you make them double sided with
turned in edges.
This is where the drawing turns into reality. I wonder if
customers realize how the dimensions they give me affect the shape of
final product. I guessed at the final proportions when I made the
sketch and it looks to me like I wasn't too far off. When they
add a feature they want to know how much it will cost, but do they
realize that every time you add a feature you add weight.
This pebble leather is thin and strong so it isn't as
heavy a bag as it would be using a thicker leather and it isn't so soft
that it can't do the job of keeping it's shape and carrying the heavy
lap top computer. This was the right leather for this bag and it looks
really nice. The straps were made using this same pebble grain leather
in black. I think the black looks good with chocolate brown. The thread
is almost black, it isn't really this white, it's just reflecting a lot
of light from the flash.
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handbags that were made as samples or that when we finished it we
realized we should have read the comments window info. Or maybe we got
an email from the customer saying, " OOPS, I hate to be a bother but, I
finally measured and can you make it four inches longer and I
decided on light brown instead of black".
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by Henry Hibbard
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